Words of WonderFamous by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

by Naomi Shihab Nye


I found such a spaciousness in this beautiful poem this evening. The buttonhole, just there, doing its thing. No big deal.

In all our business and relationships and thinking, and to-ing and fro-ing, it is easy to forget just who we are. We are continually being told things, and maybe being expected to do things, and maybe thinking we are not doing things quite right, or saying things quite right, or maybe we should be doing this instead of that, and that we might be all wrong, that we are  just wrong. And we find ways to confirm our suspicions of our wrongness, and we try harder to just manage to be OK. Maybe we don’t feel OK but we just make out we are OK because that is easier.

Maybe then we can find some peace by sensing the freedom and non-doing of the buttonhole just being itself. Maybe then we can be famous to the dog. Or to the cup of tea for holding it just like that. Famous to the butterfly we help find its way back outside.